Have you noticed how many people are creating a word of the year these days? In the past I have contemplated doing this but somehow it just never sticks for me. Maybe I’m just not committed enough. Or I just have too many thoughts and ideas running through my head to focus on just one. I have however been contemplating a “food” of the year for this blog. After much thought, I decided that this year I would provide a new soup each month. So starting this month, I will showcase a new type of soup to enjoy each month with my Soup of the Month.
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Winter is a great season for soup. It is so warming when it’s blustery and cold outside. And it makes the house smell heavenly to have a pot of soup simmering on the back burner. When I make a pot of soup I use a variety of cooking techniques. I have a cast iron dutch oven that I use, especially when I need that long slow cooking time. For soups that take less time, a large stainless steel pot works well. I use my crockpot when I need to be away from the house or stove and can’t periodically stir the soup. Finally, my latest efforts in soup making are in my Instant Pot.
You really don’t need fancy ingredients to make a great pot of soup. Most soups can be made from a few basic items. Here are some things to have on hand for a good pot of soup.
Items that you need to make a Great pot of Soup:
Onions and garlic
The most flavorful soups start with onions and garlic being sauteed in a little bit of oil. I typically use olive oil, but you can use whatever type you have on hand.
Using celery and firm vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, parsnips, pumpkin and winter squash add some density to your soup. Start with these vegetables first because they need a longer cooking time. Later you can add in green beans, peas, corn, cabbage, tomatoes, cauliflower and asparagus. Finally toward the end of the cooking process you can add in more delicate vegetables such a summer squash, spinach, kale and broccoli.
Your soup will need some type of broth to make a liquid consistency. You can make your own broth from the bones of beef, ham, chicken or turkey. Or make a flavorful broth from roasted vegetables. You can also just purchase a flavorful broth if you don’t have time to make one from scratch. There are plenty of good quality canned broths available. Another option would be to use bouillon granules to flavor your broth. What you use depends on the amount of time you have and what’s available. I will usually make my own broth when I have the bones available, such as using the turkey carcass after Thanksgiving or a ham bone after New Years. However, most of the time I use canned broth and bouillon granules/cubes to flavor my soup.
If you want a hearty meal in a pot then you will need to add in some protein to your soup. This can include chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, clams and legumes. In case you don’t recognize the term legume it is the family of dried beans, peas and lentils. It also includes soy products such as tofu. There is a whole world of legumes out there. If you are only using one type then I would encourage you to explore and try a new variety such as black beans, navy beans, garbanzo beans or chickpeas, split peas, and a rainbow of lentil colors. The protein should be added early into the pot if it needs to be fully cooked such as those dried legumes or raw meat. If the protein is already fully cooked then it can be added later in the cooking process.
Most soups will also contain some type of grain such as pasta, rice, barley, quinoa or farro. You can add the grain in early if it is raw and needs time to cook or you can add fully cooked grains toward the end of the cooking process. Just be aware that the grain will continue to absorb moisture so you might need to add additional broth into your soup.
You will definitely want to add in some salt, pepper, herbs and spices to your soup. What you add will depend on what type of soup that you are making. How much you add will depend on if the spices are fresh or dried. I like to experiment with my seasonings, however, I would start with a small amount and taste as you go. Adding too much is more difficult to correct than increasing little by little. Seasonings that work well in soup include bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, basil and summer savory.
Depending on your type of soup you might also need some dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese. There are a variety of other ingredients that might be needed for a specific type of soup such as won tons or dumplings.
There is nothing more enjoyable than a warm and filling bowl of soup. The blending of the flavors as the soup simmers adds a wonderful taste to each distinct type of soup. I would like to help you to explore a variety of different types of soups with unique flavors. So beginning this month you will see a chosen Soup of the Month.
My goal for each soup will be to include produce that is in season and available during that month. Some soup ingredients can be purchased year round such as carrots and potatoes. However there are often ingredients that are only available seasonally or are more economical during the normal growing season. For example, asparagus is a spring vegetable that is at it’s peak May through June. You can buy imported asparagus all year long at an exorbitant cost. My goal is to provide economical ingredients, thus in season.
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